Guide to the African American Construction Workers of Pittsburgh Photograph Collection, 1956-1987 AIS.2006.13

ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

Repository
ULS Archives & Special Collections
Title
African American Construction Workers of Pittsburgh Photograph Collection
Collection Number
AIS.2006.13
Date
1956-1987
Extent
1.25 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract
This collection of photographs depicts African American construction workers in Pittsburgh from the angle of their membership in the African American laborers’ local (International Hod Carriers and Building Laborers Local 11), 1957-1960, and from the angle of efforts by African American leaders like Ellis R. McGruder, Jr. and Nate Smith in the 1960s and 1970s to bring about greater employment opportunities for African Americans in the building trades in Pittsburgh. The photographs in this collection provide a unique gallery of individuals involved in the movement for the equal representation of African Americans in the construction workforce of Pittsburgh, Pa. Digital reproductions of the collection are available online.

Preferred Citation

African American Construction Workers of Pittsburgh Photograph Collection, 1956-1987, AIS.2006.13, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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History

This collection of photographs depicts African American construction workers in Pittsburgh from the angle of their membership in the African American laborers’ local (International Hod Carriers and Building Laborers Local 11), 1957-1960, and from the angle of efforts by African American leaders like Ellis R. McGruder, Jr. and Nate Smith in the 1960s and 1970s to bring about greater employment opportunities for African Americans in the building trades in Pittsburgh.

Though details are sketchy, Pittsburgh’s black Laborers Local 11 was chartered on May 25, 1903. As of 1908, the local was meeting at 120 Crawford Street, then for a time at Lyric Hall, Fulton and Gilmore Streets ca. 1910, and at 2157 Centre Avenue ca. 1937. The local was represented in conventions of the Pennsylvania Federation of Labor (e.g. 1922) and at meetings of the Pittsburgh Central Labor Union and its successor, the Allegheny County Labor Council. In 1964, Local 11 was merged with two historically “white” construction locals, Demolition Workers Local 136 and Laborers Local 226 to form Construction General Laborers Local Union 373. The merger did not result in widening opportunities for Pittsburgh’s African American construction workers.

In response to this situation, in the 1960s, Nate Smith, a former boxer and a heavy equipment operator for Local 66 of the Operating Engineers' Union, challenged Pittsburgh’s contractors and unions regarding their hiring practices. Told that the problem was a lack of properly trained workers, Smith created Operation Dig, a school to train African Americans to become construction journeymen. The school was partially funded by Edgar Kaufmann who had sponsored Smith’s boxing career and was a close friend. Soon over sixty African Americans had completed their training with Operation Dig; but, by and large, they were still not being hired onto area construction crews. Smith then formed the Black Construction Coalition to assure the hiring of African American workers in Pittsburgh per the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After several demonstrations which at times resulted in violent clashes, the Pittsburgh Plan was founded as a means for the city and unions to oversee the peaceful integration of African Americans into the building trades. Its success has been differently evaluated by different commentators.

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Scope and Content Notes

Collection Scope and Content Note

The photographs in this collection provide a unique gallery of individuals involved in the movement for the equal representation of African Americans in the construction workforce of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Many of the photographs include identification of the individuals pictured, generally in the form of labels affixed to the face of the pictures themselves. While this limits their value as pure visual images, the specific identification of individuals, organizations and dates constitutes an important historical resource. Photographs of Nate Smith include views of him speaking at Operation Dig and meeting with Jesse Jackson concerning Operation PUSH in Chicago. Meetings regarding the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program audits of many construction jobs are also depicted. Photographs of rioting in the Hill District after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are present, as are unique photographs of the officers of Local 11 at the union's offices.

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Arrangement

The photo albums in this collection, noted below as volumes, have been maintained in their original order. The albums contain indices which assist in locating specific individuals within each album.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
Website: library.pitt.edu/archives-special-collections
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
Contact Us: www.library.pitt.edu/ask-archivist

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright

Permission for publication is given on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the University Library System in 2006.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Zachary L. Brodt in May 2007.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of the collection are available online.

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Related Materials

Related Material

Paul J. LeBlanc Papers, AIS.1974.17, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

Catholic Interracial Council of Pittsburgh, AIS.1979.06, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

Dick Thornburgh Papers, AIS.1998.30, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

KDKA Film Collection, AIS.1984.30, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Black Construction Coalition.
  • Community Action Pittsburgh.
  • Concentration Employment Program.
  • Construction & General Laborers' Union Local 373 (Swissvale, Pa.).
  • International Hod Carriers' and Building Laborers' Union of America. Local 11 (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
  • International Union of Operating Engineers. Local 66 (Monroeville, Pa.).
  • Operating Engineers. Local 66 (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
  • Operation Dig.
  • Pittsburgh Plan.
  • United States. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Genre(s)

  • Photograph albums

Geographic Name(s)

  • Green Tree (Allegheny County, Pa.)
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.)

Occupation(s)

  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers

Personal Name(s)

  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
  • McGruder, Jr., Ellis R.
  • Smith, Nate, African American construction worker

Subject(s)

  • African American construction workers
  • Civil rights demonstrations -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Discrimination in employment -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Iron and steel workers
  • Labor
  • Riots -- Pennsylvania -- Hill District (Pittsburgh)

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Previous Citation

African American Construction Workers of Pittsburgh Photograph Collection, 1956-1987, AIS.2006.13, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

African American Construction Workers of Pittsburgh Photograph Collection, 1956-1987, UE/Labor 2006:13, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

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Collection Inventory

  BoxVolume
Volume 1 11
Online
Ellis McGruder, Jr. at the Laborers' Union Convention in Atlantic City, 1956 
Pittsburgh Local 11 Construction Laborers Elected Officers, 1958 
Pittsburgh Local 11 Construction Laborers Elected Officers, 1960 
Laborers District Council of Western Pennsylvania, 1964 
Graduating Operating Engineers 
Ellis McGruder, Jr., Governor Milton Shapp and Jack Williams 
Pittsburgh Plan, Operation Dig in East Liberty 
Nate Smith at the Pittsburgh Plan, Operation Dig in East Liberty 
Pittsburgh Plan Administrative Committee, Minorities into the Skilled Crafts 
Reverend Elmer Williams, Congressman Bill Moorhead, and William Johnson 
Graduating Operating Engineers 
Laborer's Local 373 Retirees 
Richard Hatcher, Maynard Jackson, and Nate Smith 
Pittsburgh Plan and Operation Dig 
Samuel Lawler, Official Local 11, 1958 
Ellis McGruder, Jr., Governor Milton Shapp and Jack Williams 

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  Volume
Volume 2 2
Online
Union Local 11 Meetings, 1957-1958 
Black Coalition and Martin Luther King Assassination Riots in Pittsburgh's Hill District, 1968 
Manpower Center, Community Action Pittsburgh, Concentration Employment Program, and Pittsburgh Plan Workers 
Operating Engineers Training Site, New Alexander, Pa. 

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  Volume
Volume 3 3
Online
Pittsburgh Plan Administrative Committee 
Pittsburgh Plan, Hill House, and Building Industry Center 
Construction Advancement Program, 1981 
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program Electricians Audit 
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program Carpenters Audit 
Community Action Pittsburgh 
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program Carpenters and Sprinkle Fitters Audit 
Pittsburgh Plan Office and Hill House 
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program Plumbers Audit 
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program Iron Workers Audit 
Black Construction Coalition Meeting 
Black Solidarity Day Meeting, 1972 
Operation PUSH with Jesse Jackson in Chicago, 1972 
Photographs of Individuals 
Exit Audit Findings Meeting 
Concentration Employment Program Job Fair 
Photographs of Individuals 
Community Action Pittsburgh 
Green Tree Placement Committee 
Construction Advancement Program in Green Tree, Pa. 
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program's Placement Audit in Green Tree, Pa. 
Pittsburgh Plan and Placement Committee Meeting 
Women's Conference in New Jersey 
Dick Gregory Speech at Hill House 
James McCoy Testimonial Dinner 
Operating Engineers Local 66 Dinner Dance Program, 1987 

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